It's the first warm day of summer. You, some friends, and family are out poolside. The sun is warm, the air smells like sizzling burgers and fresh-cut grass. You're standing beside the pool on your phone when that mischievous friend you have pushes you into the pool, $800 smartphone and all. Or maybe you're jamming out to some tunes at the sink when your air guitar solo knocks your phone right into some nasty dish water. Or maybe you're at your laptop, writing the world's next greatest novel, when your coffee ends up all over your keyboard instead of in your mouth. You turn off your device as quickly as you can, and dash to the kitchen. Rice is supposed to fix this sort of thing, right? You fill the biggest airtight container you have with rice, shove your device inside, and hope. Twenty-four hours later, you pull it out, and everything seems to be fine. All is well. Right? Wrong.
This modern home remedy for a water-logged electronic device seems to make a lot of sense. The goal is to dry off the device inside and out. Rice will naturally absorb moisture. So, put the device into the rice, seal it off, and give the rice enough time to do its magic and absorb all of the moisture from the device, or so the story goes. However, while rice may remove some liquid from the device, it does not actually repair the damage the liquid has caused. Not only that, but rice itself can further damage the device.
Why isn't rice enough to repair your liquid-damaged device? It has to do with two different reasons liquid actually damages your device in the first place. The first way is the one we're probably most familiar with. Liquid (or actually, the minerals and impurities in liquid. Fun fact: pure water is actually a poor conductor of electricity!) combined with the electricity in your device sends electrical currents to places they're not supposed to go. Think of your device's logic board (motherboard, mainboard—the main component that makes it work) like a freeway system. Driving on a freeway, you take a certain combination of interstates to get to a certain destination. Take a different combination and you may never end up at your destination. Try to enter on the exit ramp, and you may end up dead! Circuits on the logic board are like the interstates, and electricity is like the cars on the road. Allowing liquid into the device is like taking down all the interstate signs. Just like cars would end up all over the place, liquid allows electricity to go wherever it wants, including places it is not designed to go. Connections get bridged, which causes short circuits. This mayhem can destroy components in the device, cause excess heat which will eventually ruin your device over the long term, or a host of other problems. The problem isn't even necessarily solved by drying out your device—liquids can leave behind their impurities when they dry up, and those impurities can continue to send electricity places it's not supposed to go and cause those short circuits.
The second way that liquid causes damage is sneakier: corrosion. Even if your device is completely dry (which is more difficult than you might think—liquid can become trapped underneath components on a circuit board), significant damage could already be done. Liquid does not only interact with electricity, but with some of the metal components in your device. Metals like copper react very poorly to water, and the combination of water and oxygen begins a process called corrosion. The corrosion we're most familiar with is rust, the corrosion of iron. Just like rust eats up metal, corrosion is actually slowly destroying the metal in the device. Left to itself, corrosion can completely ruin circuits in the device and leave it unrepairable. Not only that, corrosion is really difficult to remove. If you've tried to remove rust from anything, you know that a lot of sand paper and hard work is involved! Likewise, you have to have the right tools to remove corrosion.
Here's why rice shouldn't quit its day job. It only handles our first problem, liquid, reasonably well. It will remove some of the liquid from the device, but usually it does not do a thorough job. Often, rice will not get close enough to some areas to effectively remove the liquid, while in other instances it gets too close. We've opened devices with sitting liquid and rice inside! When this happens, rice can deposit starch onto electrical components that actually damage the device further, just like the liquid. Rice doesn't handle our second problem of corrosion at all. Rice, you're tasty steamed, fried, or even boiled, but not inside my $2,000 MacBook.
So, what should you do if you just dropped your device into the sink? The first part of the rice solution is sound: you need to remove power from your device as soon as possible. Unplug and/or power down your device immediately after the incident, and do not power it back on until it has been properly cleaned. Internet articles and YouTube videos will recommend tooth brushes, mineral spirits, vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol, and other household items to clean off the insides of your device. While these solutions can be used to clean your device, they are not thorough, and can ruin your device if not used carefully. The best use of your time and money, and the best chance of saving your device, is to power it off and bring it to a professional as soon as possible after a liquid accident.
We specialize in professional liquid damage repair and board-level repair. We can dry out your device, remove corrosion and other impurities, and actually replace damaged components on the main board of your device. We use a professional cleaning process involving specially-formulated chemical cleaners and a wave-heat cycle. This process is safe for your device, handled by trained technicians, and can often restore functionality to a device with no further repair if we receive it shortly after the incident.
We have a 95% success rate of repairing seemingly dead MacBooks, Laptops and Cell Phones. In fact, most failed liquid damage repairs are the result of a device being dried out with rice and then used extensively. The initial liquid damage, mineral deposit from the liquid, and starch from the rice work out their evil magic over time, making your device a ticking time bomb waiting to die at the most inopportune time. So remember: rice is for dinner and a side dish at your favorite Mexican Restaurant, not an electronic repair.